Microsoft opens anti-cybercrime facility

Microsoft Corp. has opened a 17,000 square foot facility which will provide technical and legal expertise along with the IT infrastructure needed to thwart cybercrime activities.

The software maker said it will share its new Digital Crimes Unit headquarters located in the company’s Redmond, Wash. campus, with partners working together on certain cases with Microsoft and to organizations it shares a common interest with.

The announcement highlights the merger of Microsoft’s DCU, which was tasked with identifying and targeting botnets and malware, and the company’s Intellectual Property Crimes Unite (IPCU) which targeted software pirates, according to Bonnie MacNaughton, assistant general counsel for the DCU.

The earlier incarnation of the DCU had a legal team which applied laws (some of which were written before cybercrime existed) to crime committed on the Internet. The unit’s activities have resulted in court orders which allowed Microsoft to seize servers used in criminal activities.

The original DCU has been credited with crippling Waledac, Rustock, Kelihos, Zeus, Nitol and Citadel botnets.

The new program ups the DCU’s former workforce of 11 to about 100 with the addition of IPCU personnel.

Creation of the centre came about after Brad Smith, Microsoft general counsel visited South Korea’s nation cybercrime headquarters. Smith realized there was a mismatch between the experience of Microsoft’s experts and the tools they were working with. The centre, Microsoft said, aims to address that issue.

Among the tools that will be housed in the new facility is an application called SitePrint. The application detects common patterns from seemingly unrelated Web sites, said MacNaughton.

Investigators can use these patterns to glean common ownership and control of these sites and to track down syndicates that operate them.

She said the unit employs a strategy that targets the payment systems that criminal syndicates use to gather the money they steal and then coordinate activities with companies like Visa and PayPal to cut off payments.

The DCU also helps in fighting child pornography on the Internet. It uses a technology called PhotoDNA which hashes the digital signatures of images to quickly identify pornographic images. Facebook uses PhotoDNA to detect and remove porn images from its site.

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Nestor E. Arellano
Nestor E. Arellano
Toronto-based journalist specializing in technology and business news. Blogs and tweets on the latest tech trends and gadgets.

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